We cannot imagine of life in absence of water. However, we should accept the fact that the sources of freshwater are limited and they are under growing pressure. Kathmandu Valley is one of the places where the demand for water is growing rapidly but the supply has been far from enough. So the people have no option but to turn to groundwater to meet their needs which has resulted in rapid depletion in the level of groundwater without adequate recharge. And the problem seems to be growing deeper over the years as neither the government nor the general public are doing enough to prevent the situation from going out of hands.
Kathmandu has witnessed rapid urbanisation over the last few decades, entailing a lot of construction. Unplanned and haphazard construction and concrete sealing prevents the rainwater from percolating into the underground. Meanwhile, the growing population has necessitated the extraction of groundwater to meet the demand for water; the government has issued permits to about 700 individuals and organisations to extract groundwater for one’s own use or to supply to common consumers. Consequently, the store of water underground is shrinking fast; until two decades ago, groundwater could be retrieved by drilling about 10 metres but now one has to go as deep as 50 metres to find the water level. But the government does not seem to be doing enough to prevent the situation from aggravating further.
One alternative is timely completion of Melamchi Water Supply Project that is expected to pump in 170 million litres of water daily to the Kathmandu Valley. However, the fate of the project that got underway in the year 2000 with a target to complete in six years is still uncertain though the concerned authorities’ claim that it will complete within a year. Let’s hope that the Melamchi water will flow into the Valley at the earliest giving a great relief to the Kathmandu denizens. Another alternative is rainwater harvesting and this can prove more sustainable. With an installation of a simple mechanism, each household can harvest a lot of water during the monsoon from June to September which can be used in the dry season. Besides, each household can build an artificial rainwater recharge to allow more water to percolate into the aquifers and supplement groundwater level. But despite being aware of severe water shortage hardly anyone pays attention to collecting rainwater in a tank to use the stuff at hard times.
The government needs to get more serious about preserving the level of groundwater by way of recharge. This can be done by preventing haphazard construction of houses and other infrastructures and making it mandatory for people and organisations to install rainwater harvesting mechanism while building houses, asking them to build a recharge pit to allow water to percolate into the ground. There is a need to raise awareness among the people to accomplish these objectives. At the same time, steps need to be taken to preserve the ponds, streams, forest resources and sand mounds which allow enough rainwater to seep back into the ground. The earlier these measures are taken, the better.